The NBA loosened on-court sneaker colour restrictions, a move designed to encourage individual expression. This lead to a significant boost in sales for Nike, which leads the basketball market with a 73.5% share of the billion-dollar business. Its competitor, Jordan, remains at 7.8% (67 percent of NBA players wear either Nike or Jordan brand shoes).
However, according to the NPD Group, “Basketball has fallen from its height of being an important streetwear product to really out of fashion right now,” as the performance segment has declined over multiple years and no sport-specific shoe category has shown any growth in more than three years.
Though sports brands still dominate the field, they are now looking to conquer the ever-lucrative lifestyle segment, the key to capturing tomorrow’s consumers. While specific sports shoes have come and gone out of fashion, athleisure, defined as “clothing designed for workouts and other athletic activities worn in other settings, such as casual or social occasions,” is now the trend in fashion.
The traditional approach was to sponsor a celebrity athlete to stimulate emulation. Now, the approach may operate in reverse, as athletes bring their own streetwear style to the court. Jordan’s partnership with Paris Saint-Germain is a good example of a lifestyle look making a foray into soccer.
Besides shoes, the NBA axed its hard stance on team uniforms during the 2017-2018 season. Instead of traditional jersey colours for home games, teams were allowed to choose their own.
Jersey eccentricity combined with sports, music, and fashion was on full display during the Raptors’ OVO night in support of the Welcome to Toronto initiative. This fundraising program was designed “to help encourage the next generation towards a future of arts, community, and ball.” The initiative was activated during six home games, which featured OVO Jerseys and a black and gold themed home court. Proceeds from the Raptors-OVO partnership went towards developing Canada Basketball and refurbishing 12 local community basketball courts.